SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Desexing your companion animals saves lives

The overpopulation of pets in New Zealand is a huge concern, and thousands of animals end up homeless or neglected every year as a result. SPCA works hard to find homes for these animals, but it is an unending battle - we need your help!

SPCA is concerned about the oversupply of companion animals. The excessive, uncontrolled breeding of pets is an important contributing factor in creating New Zealand’s widespread stray and unwanted animal problems, which leads to negative welfare impacts, negative impacts on the environment, and the euthanasia of healthy animals. The desexing of companion animals is an important component of population control and has health and welfare benefits for the desexed animal (read on for more information about this).

We are committed to reducing the number of unwanted animals in New Zealand. All animals rehomed from SPCA Centres are desexed, unless it is inappropriate for the species/sex of the animal concerned, or if it is deemed inappropriate by a veterinarian for the particular individual (e.g. for specific health reasons). If there is a valid reason why an animal cannot be desexed prior to rehoming, we will make sure that they will not be rehomed to a location where breeding can occur or where conflict or fighting is likely to occur with other entire animals.

We also run regular desexing campaigns for owned pets, and work with local rescue organisations to desex stray cats in our community.

Common questions about desexing

What is desexing?

Desexing is the surgical removal of part of the animals’ reproductive system. Under New Zealand legislation, this is a significant surgical procedure and must only be undertaken by a veterinarian, or a veterinary student under the supervision of a veterinarian.

There are many different words to describe this procedure (desexing, spaying, neutering, altering, castration, sterilisation etc.), but they all refer to the surgical altering of an animal to prevent breeding (having babies).

Should I desex my companion animal?

Yes! SPCA advocates for all companion cats, dogs, and other companion animals as deemed appropriate, to be desexed before selling or rehoming, except registered breeding animals. Desexing is an important component of population control and has welfare benefits for the desexed animal.

You can read more SPCA’s position on desexing, and other position statements, here.

At what age should my companion animal be desexed?

SPCA supports pre-pubertal desexing - that is desexing before the animal reaches puberty and is able to reproduce.

We recommend that all cats, dogs, rabbits, and other companion animals are desexed as early as possible in accordance with veterinary advice.

What about small animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice) – can they be desexed?

SPCA supports the pre-pubertal desexing of all companion animals, and recommends that rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs be desexed as early as possible in accordance with veterinary advice.

Not all veterinarians will offer desexing services for rabbits and small rodents. Ask your veterinarian, your local SPCA, or rabbit/rodent society/interest group for recommendations for a veterinarian who does offer desexing for rabbits/rodents and is experienced and familiar with anaesthetising and desexing these small animals.

Fun fact! Male rabbits can still be fertile for up to six weeks post-desexing, so bear this in mind when considering housing arrangements during this time.

Will desexing change my dog's nature?

There is generally no great character change noted after desexing, although the dog may be quieter, more placid, and less likely to roam. Unlike people, animals don’t experience the concepts of sexual identity or ego, and do not suffer emotionally or feel self-conscious after being neutered.

Should my female dog or cat have a litter before being desexed?

No! Well-meaning people may tell you that your female dog or cat should have a litter or experience a heat cycle/season before she is desexed. However, veterinary science tells us that the opposite is true! Female animals that have not been spayed are at higher risk of developing cancers of the uterus, ovaries and mammary glands, as well as suffering from complications of pregnancy and birthing.

Will desexing my dog make him/her gain weight?

Desexing removes the animals’ major source of sex hormones which can slightly lower the metabolic rate. As a result, a desexed animal may gain weight more easily, but only if you feed him/her more than needed. You could look at this as a cost-saving exercise, as the desexed animal needs relatively less food to maintain weight at a healthy level.

Other than preventing breeding, what are the advantages of desexing?

  • Prevents false pregnancies in females.
  • Eliminates “heat” cycles in females, which is often inconvenient for owners.
  • Reduced roaming activity (in search of mates) - meaning they are also less likely to be hit by a car, or come into contact with infectious diseases and parasites.
  • Less chance of developing certain kinds of cancers.
  • Eliminates the chance of common uterine infections (in females).
  • Reduces fighting and aggressive behaviours which reduces risk of contracting infectious disease spread by fighting.
  • Reduces dominance aggression and fighting between individual rabbits, thus making them easier to house together.
  • Reduces unwanted animals being attracted to your property by females in heat.
  • Reduces dog registration fees.
  • Reduces urine and scent marking behaviour.
  • Reduces territorial aggression towards owners in rabbits.
  • Desexed animals generally live longer, healthier, happier lives due to various health benefits, some of which are listed here.

I want to get my animal desexed, but I can’t afford it – what should I do?

Certainly, there is cost involved and this can be a barrier for some people to get their animals desexed. Fortunately, the cost of desexing is a one-off expense and there are many initiatives that offer lower cost (sometimes free) desexing for people who can’t afford normal veterinary fees. You can keep an eye out for SPCA Desexing Services on our Facebook page and website.

When should my male horse be castrated?

Male horse castration is a routine surgery that is performed to prevent unwanted offspring and possible health or behavioural issues. We recommend that you discuss the best timing for this procedure with an experienced equine veterinarian. You can ask your local SPCA or horse society/interest group for recommendations if you do not already know a suitable local veterinarian.

What can I do to help prevent companion animal overpopulation?

  • Have your own companion animal desexed!
  • Ask your veterinarian about pre-pubertal desexing - why wait? Do it today!
  • Encourage friends, family, and neighbours to have their animals desexed.
  • Support and even donate towards the desexing of shelter animals and stray cats in our communities.
  • Spread the word in your community with our resources below!

Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem: Desexing Saves Lives

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